The Collision of History & Text: The story of dual Citizens and s44(i) of the Constitution

Free Public Lecture

The Collision of History & Text: The story of dual Citizens and s44(i) of the Constitution

The David P. Derham Theatre
Melbourne Law School
185 Pelham Street


More information

T: 03 9035 1111

In July and August 2017, questions arose about whether seven parliamentarians were validly elected at the 2016 federal election. Each of the “Citizenship Seven” was an Australian citizen, but it was alleged that each was also the citizen of a foreign country. None had taken any steps to become foreign citizens, and all claimed not to be aware that they were foreign citizens. That raised a question about the meaning of s 44(i) of the Constitution.

While the text of s 44(i) suggested that disqualification followed automatically from having the status of a foreign citizen, the history and purpose of s 44(i) suggested that the literal meaning of the provision was too wide, and that it should be construed so as to disqualify only a person who had taken a voluntary step to become a foreign citizen.

The gap between the literal meaning of the text, and its intended operation, occurred as a result of a drafting change late in the final Constitutional Convention, which the Convention was assured did not alter the meaning of the provision. Nevertheless, the result was radically to expand the disqualification of dual citizens, because the distance between what the Constitution actually says, and what it was apparently intended to mean, was ultimately too great to be bridged by judicial interpretation.

The Sir Anthony Mason Honorary lecture was inaugurated in 1995, the year of Sir Anthony Mason's retirement as Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia serves to celebrate Sir Anthony Mason's outstanding contribution to the legal profession and the common law of Australia, as well as offering the opportunity for students of the Law School to meet and hear those who have helped to shape the law as they study it. It provides a substantial contribution to legal debate within the Law School, as well as inspiration and insight to many students and the greater public.

The year's speaker Solicitor-General Dr Stephen Donaghue QC who will discuss the section 44(i) of the Constitution and the saga of Dual Citizenship in Australia.

Dr Stephen Donaghue QC was appointed Solicitor-General on 14 December 2016 and commenced in the role on 16 January 2017. He holds degrees in Arts and Law from the University of Melbourne, and received the Supreme Court Prize as the top graduate in law at the University of Melbourne in 1995. He also holds a DPhil from the University of Oxford (Magdalen College), where he studied after receiving Menzies and Commonwealth scholarships. Prior to commencing at the Bar, Dr Donaghue was an Associate to Justice Hayne at the High Court of Australia.

Dr Donaghue joined the Victorian Bar in 2001, and took silk in 2011. He appeared regularly before the Full Court of the High Court, principally in matters involving constitutional and administrative law, and he also appeared in many complex appellate and trial matters in the Federal Court of Australia.

He is a Senior Fellow at the Melbourne Law School. Prior to his appointment, he was also the Chair of the Public Law Section of the Commercial Bar Association and a member of the Constitutional Law Committee of the Law Council of Australia.

Food and drinks will be served post event until 8:30pm.


  • Dr Stephen  Donaghue
    Dr Stephen Donaghue, Solicitor General